It is thirty years after “the flash”; presumably a nuclear explosion that has destroyed much of life on Earth. Denzel Washington is Eli, a lone man traveling west with a book. He uses all of his considerable skills to protect the book and deliver it intact to an unnamed destination where it will be safe. It is the last copy of the book existing, and it has the power to change the world.
Along the way Eli uses martial arts, knives, bow & arrow, and guns to survive and to guard the book. He must defend it and himself against marauding road warriors, cannibals, and the real bad guy, Carnegie. Carnegie is played by the talented Gary Oldman. Carnegie, one of the few people who can actually read, had built a town in the desert. He knows that if he can harness the power of this book, he can expand his town and build other towns and become a powerful ruler.
You guessed it-this book is the Bible. So Eli has spent 30 years on his mission, and he is so close. As he makes his way through the bleak landscape, we see the ruins of 21st century American civilization-cars, trucks, highways, and even a J. Crew store. In Carnegie’s town, Eli stops for clean water, which is precious although Carnegie seems to have plenty, and for an equipment repair. He meets a woman, Claudia and her daughter, Solara. Solara is intrigued by the power of the book, and wants to accompany Eli on his journey.
The Book of Eli is a really good movie. Although the premise is superficially similar to The Road, it really is much deeper. Eli is a powerful character, and his motivation is noble. He is not just trying to survive, but to aid humanity. Although the movie imagines a bleak and frightening post-apocalyptic world, there is a message of hope and redemption. There is also a surprising plot twist, so pay attention for the clues that seem obvious in retrospect.